French onion soup looks like it should be a simple dish. Cook onions, add stock, simmer; add bread, melt cheese. Serve. Easy, right?
The key to all excellent French onion soups centers around how one cooks the onions, a process called caramelizing. Low and slow, deglazing with broth as needed, until a soft product with a deep, brown color that produces a hint of sweetness. I give a tip for those interested in speeding up the process, but it's better if you don't.
This French onion soup recipe uses Gruyere cheese for a mellow, smooth topping on what is surely to be a favorite for frigid winter nights.
3 large onions, sliced thin (any type of onion will do, but yellow onions make a delicious soup, and are cheaper)
2 oz clarified butter
3 quarts beef stock
4 oz sherry
4 oz Alaska Distillery Bristol Bay Gin (or a similar, less-juniper-y gin)
A sachet, or tea ball ,containing;
3 parsley stems
1 bay leaf
¼ tsp cracked black peppercorns
½ tsp thyme
Salt and pepper to taste
1 loaf dry French bread, sliced
½ pound Gruyere cheese
In soup kettle or dutch oven, cook sliced onions in butter until a deep brown color develops. Add small amounts of broth if necessary to prevent burning. In a hurry (but try not to be)? Add a pinch of sugar at this point to speed caramelizing.
Add sherry and deglaze. Continue to cook until the onions and broth have a slightly-syrupy consistency.
Add remaining broth and sachet of herbs.
Simmer up to 25 minutes and remove sachet. Add the Bristol Bay Gin and stir.
Add salt and pepper to taste.
Serve in to bowls and top with bread as pictured (above). Add Gruyere cheese and place under a broiler until desired cheese melt is achieved.
Serve carefully, bowls are hot.